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Who gets to speak: The role of reported speech for identity work in complaint stories

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-54
Number of pages12
PublishedMar 2021

King's Authors


Many studies have shown the role played by reported speech in complaint stories, e.g., adding authenticity to the claim or displaying the egregiousness of the offence. In this paper I build on that research to examine the identity positionings achieved through animations of self and others in complaint stories produced during talk between clients and their stylist in a hair salon. The data at hand comprise 17 complaint sequences directed against specific individuals in which reported speech is used during the telling. Using conversation analytic methods and drawing on the framework of Narrative Positioning Analysis, the paper examines two reported speech situations: those where the complaint target is the last character animated to speak in the complaint; and those where the complainant is given this speaking position. I show that who is animated to speak, and in which order, are important means whereby the complainant achieves positioning of self and others. I also show that recipients receive the complaint differently depending on the positioning achieved by the complainant through their use of reported speech.

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